KSTAR fusion reactor sets a record for high-temperature plasma duration

KSTAR, or the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research, reactor is a superconducting fusion device called the Korean artificial sun. KSTAR has set a new world record for maintaining the high-temperature plasma for 20 seconds, reaching an ion temperature of over 100 million degrees Celsius. Scientists working on the project are now aiming to continuously operate high-temperature plasma over 100 million degrees for 300 seconds by 2025.

Achieving an ion temperature higher than 100 million degrees is a core condition of nuclear fusion for the 2020 KSTAR Plasma Campaign. While 20 seconds isn't that long, it's a significant improvement over the eight-second plasma operation recorded in 2019 by the team of researchers.

In 2018, the team was reached a plasma ion temperature of 100 million degrees for the first time with a duration of 1.5 seconds. The fusion reactor can create fusion reactions like those that occur in the sun. To create such high temperatures on Earth, hydrogen isotopes have to be placed inside a fusion device to create a plasma state where ions and electrons are separated. The ions must be heated and maintained at extremely high temperatures.

KSTAR is the only fusion device that has managed to maintain plasma at temperatures of 100 million degrees or higher. However, none of the other reactors have been able to maintain those temperatures longer than 10 seconds. Director Si-Woo Yoon at the KSTAR Research Center said that the technology required for long operations of 100 million-degree plasma are key to realizing fusion energy.

Researchers in Korea began operating KSTAR last August and continued plasma operations until December 10. Researchers conducted 110 plasma experiments during that span, including high-performance plasma operation and plasma disruption mitigation experiments.